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Titan IC Floats 100Gbps Reg-Ex Engine

October 16, 2018

Author: Bob Wheeler

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. Who names their company after a ship that sank on its first voyage? The answer is a university spinoff headquartered next to the Belfast, U.K., shipyard where the RMS Titanic was built. The CTO of Titan IC, Sakir Sezer, remains a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, the incubator for the company’s technology. Since hiring its first employee in 2012, the team has grown to 27 people, backed by a combination of several million pounds in government grants and private funding. Titan’s product is a regular-expression processor (RXP) that scales to 100Gbps of throughput. The company licenses it as intellectual property (IP) for use in SoCs, ASICs, and FPGAs.

Network security is the primary application for high-performance regular-expression (reg-ex) pro­cessing. Intrusion-detection systems and next-generation firewalls use reg-ex engines to scan packets for patterns that indicate an attack or malware. Most security appliances implement reg-ex searches in software, consuming many CPU cycles and limiting throughput under some conditions. Still, software approaches maximize flexibility, and the OEM can optimize its reg-ex engine for its own rule-set structure. A few OEMs design their own hardware engines, which are implemented in ASICs or FPGAs.

Several embedded-processor vendors—including Broadcom, Cavium, and NXP—implemented their own hardware reg-ex engines and integrated them into SoCs. Eventually, however, most abandoned these internal efforts. Their reasons included performance limitations as well as customer difficulty in mapping rule sets to the peculiarities of a given engine design. Titan addresses these concerns with a combination of greater performance and configurations tuned to the customer’s application.

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